The FPO field has seen the biggest gains, but it’s visible across the sport.
September 21, 2021 by Bennett Wineka in Recap with comments
Paige Pierce and Calvin Heimburg outlasted the loaded fields in an alternate tournament format to win the inaugural Disc Golf Pro Tour Match Play Championship over the weekend at the Steel Club in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley.
The latest showcase event from the DGPT came with big cash bonuses for the victors — $10,000 — and nice payouts for every qualifier, with at least $1,000 guaranteed for 16 MPO players and $1,250 for eight FPO contestants. Eagle McMahon and Missy Gannon would have liked to add a first place trophy to the cabinet, but $6,000 and $5,000 prizes, respectively, as part of a more than $60,000 total purse isn’t bad for a couple days of work either.
Events and payouts of this magnitude have become more common since the Disc Golf Pro Tour joined the Elite Series, and the past two years have seen tournament winnings grow even more quickly. Last year’s DGPT Championship awarded $20,000 for first prize in both the Open and Open Women’s divisions, the largest cash prize ever awarded at a disc golf tournament, and this year’s PDGA Professional World Championship set a mark for total payout at an event at $173,000. As of June 2021, this season’s DGPT Championship already had more than $150,000 promised to the purse, with top prizes of at least $25,000 for each division’s winner.
While larger payouts benefit both divisions, the Open Women’s division has seen the most growth. Since the start of the 2021 season, five payouts of $5,000 or more have been awarded to FPO players. Before this year, only eight prizes of $5,000 or more (including a PDGA National Tour Bonus) had been given to the FPO division.
Top Prizes by Division
|2020||DGPT Tour Championship||MPO||Kevin Jones||1||$20,000.00|
|2021||PDGA Pro Worlds||MPO||James Conrad||1||$16,500.00|
|2007||United States Disc Golf Championship||MPO||Ken Climo||1||$15,000.00|
|2009||United States Disc Golf Championship||MPO||Nikko Locastro||1||$15,000.00|
|2008||United States Disc Golf Championship||MPO||Nate Doss||1||$12,000.00|
|2010||United States Disc Golf Championship||MPO||Will Schusterick||1||$12,000.00|
|2017||PDGA Pro Worlds||MPO||Ricky Wysocki||1||$12,000.00|
|2017||United States Disc Golf Championship||MPO||Nate Sexton||1||$12,000.00|
|2019||United States Disc Golf Championship||MPO||James Conrad||1||$12,000.00|
|2005||United States Disc Golf Championship||MPO||Dave Feldberg||1||$11,000.00|
|2006||United States Disc Golf Championship||MPO||Barry Schutlz||1||$11,000.00|
|2003||United States Disc Golf Championship||MPO||Barry Schutlz||1||$10,000.00|
|2004||United States Disc Golf Championship||MPO||Ken Climo||1||$10,000.00|
|2016||PDGA Pro Worlds||MPO||Ricky Wysocki||1||$10,000.00|
|2016||United States Disc Golf Championship||MPO||Jeremy Koling||1||$10,000.00|
|2017||DGPT Tour Championship||MPO||Ricky Wysocki||1||$10,000.00|
|2017||PDGA National Tour Elite Series Bonus Payout||MPO||Paul McBeth||1||$10,000.00|
|2018||United States Disc Golf Championship||MPO||Paul McBeth||1||$10,000.00|
|2020||United States Disc Golf Championship||MPO||Chris Dickerson||1||$10,000.00|
|2020||DGPT Tour Championship||MPO||Chris Dickerson||2||$10,000.00|
|2021||PDGA Pro Worlds||MPO||Paul McBeth||2||$10,000.00|
|2021||DGPT Match Play Championship||MPO||Calvin Heimburg||1||$10,000.00|
|2020||DGPT Tour Championship||FPO||Hailey King||1||$20,000.00|
|2020||DGPT Tour Championship||FPO||Paige Pierce||2||$10,000.00|
|2021||PDGA Pro Worlds||FPO||Catrina Allen||1||$10,000.00|
|2021||DGPT Match Play Championship||FPO||Paige Pierce||1||$10,000.00|
|2021||PDGA Pro Worlds||FPO||Paige Pierce||2||$6,000.00|
|2021||PDGA Pro Worlds||FPO||Lisa Fajkus||3||$5,300.00|
|2017||PDGA Pro Worlds||FPO||Paige Pierce||1||$5,500.00|
|2018||PDGA Pro Worlds||FPO||Paige Shue||1||$5,000.00|
|2017||PDGA National Tour Elite Series Bonus Payout||FPO||Paige Pierce||1||$5,000.00|
|2016||PDGA Pro Worlds||FPO||Valarie Jenkins||1||$5,000.00|
|2019||PDGA Pro Worlds||FPO||Paige Pierce||1||$5,000.00|
|2020||DGPT Tour Championship||FPO||Catrina Allen||3||$5,000.00|
|2021||DGPT Match Play Championship||FPO||Missy Gannon||2||$5,000.00|
Larger tournament earnings overall will also see the 2021 season set records for prize money won by individual players. As of September 20, five players have already eclipsed $50,000 in prize money on their PDGA profiles for the calendar year — Ricky Wysocki ($62,429, 21 events), Paige Pierce ($59,113, 21 events), Paul McBeth ($57,328, 21 events), Eagle McMahon ($56,415, 17 events), and Calvin Heimburg ($54,785, 22 events). Four of those players participated in the DGPT Match Play Championship, which contributed to their PDGA earnings,1 but McBeth declined his invitation and did not attend. McBeth did, however, earn $2,800 for a win at his own Battle for Bedford, a B-Tier.
Prior to 2021, only two players ever finished a season with more than $50,000 in PDGA earnings — McBeth four times and Wysocki twice. Wysocki holds the overall top sum for a season at $79,348.23 set in 2017 with 29 events, and McBeth’s highest yearly sum is $72,045 from 26 events in 2015.
Only Pierce from the Open Women’s division has finished a season above $40,000, setting the high mark at $41,328 in 2017. In 2021, Pierce and Allen2 are already above the $40,000 mark with Hailey King within striking distance. Pierce and Allen are the only two FPO players to ever finish above $30,000 in a year, and four players are already at or near that in 2021. To date, 2019 saw the most female players finish a season earning more than $10,000 with seven, and, in 2021, 14 women’s players are already at $10,000 or more.
In addition to tournament earnings, sponsorship bonuses, and tour fundraisers such as signature discs, players are also given more opportunities to increase their earning potential through media appearances. GK Pro’s popular OTB Tour Skins series gives players more chances to win cash outside of tournaments, and Gatekeeper Media has also recently hosted a match. Skins matches aren’t new, but the frequency and cash amounts are. In 24 skins matches in 2021 — 23 on GK, one on Gatekeeper — 14 players have earned $1,000 or more in total. McMahon leads the prize total in skins matches at $7,300 on three appearances, and Missy Gannon, $1,450, is the only FPO player on the list of top earners.
|Total||Brantwood||GMC||MVP||Delaware||Stafford||Idlewild||Eagles Crossing||Preserve||GLO||DMC||Canyons||Worlds – Mulligans||Worlds – Fort||Portland||OTB||Goat Hill||DDO||Mid America||Jonesboro||Vintage||Texas States||Belton||Waco||LVC|
In all, 55 players have appeared in skins matches on YouTube in 2021. Paige Pierce is the only female player to appear in a standard Skins match, with the other five FPO players being featured in either mixed doubles or an FPO-only edition.
Skins matches have also benefited the top earners more on the MPO side as well. Of the top 20 current Open earners in 2021, 16 have appeared on at least one skins episode — Adam Hammes, Andrew Marwede, Joel Freeman, and Andrew Presnell are the exceptions. Six players who are not in the current top 20 earners — Gavin Rathbun, Nate Sexton, Gregg Barsby, Thomas Gilbert, Simon Lizotte, and Silver Latt — have earned at least $1,000 via skins matches.
Including earnings from skins, three players have already won more than $60,000 in 2021 — Wysocki, McMahon, Heimburg — and several large payouts loom at the Music City Open, USDGC/TPWDGC, and DGPT Tour Championship.
Added cash from sponsors, spectators, and subscriptions have raised the expectations when it comes disc golf payouts, and while in many instances the “rich get richer,” the benefits are also being seen further down the leaderboards.